ON HEAVEN AND EARTH:
Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century
by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka
(Image, Random House, London, 2013, Hardback, 236pp, $44.00, ISBN: 978-0-77045-506-6. Available from Freedom Publishing)
In his first year of office, Pope Francis has made an extraordinary impression on vast numbers of people and enjoyed an impressive and positive relationship with the world's media.
Although little known outside South America before his election, Pope Francis has been the subject of an increasing number of books examining his exceptional life and thought, particularly before he was elected pope in 2013.
On Heaven and Earth is one of the more intellectually demanding books written about Pope Francis, consisting as it does of a series of conversations between then-Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and a well-known and widely respected Argentinian Rabbi, Abraham Skorka.
They discuss frankly but respectfully many different topics including inter-religious dialogue, the Holocaust, abortion, divorce, death, "same-sex marriage" and nationalism, just to name a few topics.
However, the constant and pervasive theme is an honest evaluation of religious leaders and institutions in general, with each author often revealing how those who speak in the name of God can be more of a hindrance than a help to true religion.
On Heaven and Earth is a call for a purification of religious sensibilities among all believers, but especially among religious leaders.
More than likely, most of this book's readers will be Catholics, fascinated by Pope Francis' career. However, they will also find of great interest Rabbi Skorka's knowledge of Talmudic lore or Jewish folk stories (such as the story of the Golem of Prague).
It is evident from these conversations that Judaism can enrich Christian thought and vice-versa.
This book is highly recommended as an insightful introduction to the personality of Pope Francis, as well as a fascinating encounter between representatives of two of the great world religions.